Method of the Ancient Essay
Method of the Ancient
In the excerpt, Claude Perrault begins mundanely by recalling the Ancients’ belief in that the utilization of proportioning systems based on the human body would give aesthetic qualities and beauty to a building. Without a doubt, this topic of beauty, which resides from mathematical proportions, is readily discussed both visually and verbally through examples in all history and theory of architecture classes including Buildings, Texts and Contexts.
However, what makes the text compelling to me is how Perrault brings into light the discrepancy in these proportioning systems that exists throughout history – from the antiquity through to the renaissance. It is said that although the building orders may conform to certain proportions as a whole, the constituent parts of buildings, such as the precise dimensions of the members and its profiles, does not pertain to any strict rules or to a consensus of opinions amongst architects such that the building’s ultimate beauty does not lie only in proportions.
Perrault’s juxtaposition of the beauty of buildings with the beauty of a human face clearly give weights to his argument: “a face can be both ugly and beautiful without any change in proportions; the contraction of the eyes and the enlargement of the mouth can be the same when one laughs as one weeps”. Perrault also points out that even though there is no single absolute proportioning rules for beauty, there are certain limitations to which one can deviate before a building loses its elegance.
Through these flexibility and variability of indefinite rules, Perrault points out that by no means is the proportions preserved in architecture, of which is perceived by our eyes, are akin to the ones that govern musical harmonies, gained through our ears, as they are of immutable precision. These two sensory faculties, the eyes and the ears, work in processing data in different ways according to Perrault: the ear processes data without intervention of the intellect whilst the eyes work through the mediation of knowledge.
Perrault then argues that since the proportions of edifice are usually oblivious to our eyes there must exists two different types of beauty: positive beauty and arbitrary beauty. Positive beauty as define by Perrault is for me quite the oppositive of Kant’s aesthetics judgement for that Perrault’s positive beauty are based on convincing reasons rather being disinterested and being ‘purposive without a purpose’.
They are convincing reasons based on value and quality such as its rich materiality or even its precise execution. Arbitrary beauty, unlike positive beauty, is to me more like Kant’s aesthetics judgement in that it is universal, at least to a certain extent. Arbitrary beauty, as defined by Perrault, is the beauty where people have customarily come to agreement without any intrinsic qualities to justify such judgement.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 June 2017
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